There is no selection of adjectives that can be found to describe the most recent proceedings of the Montserrat Legislative Assembly, held on Thursday June 30, 2016. For sure, what we heard was the loud voice of dissent. It is not the first time we have heard dissent inside the Honourable House. However, this dissent is different from the others. This dissent that was on display says that some members of the ruling People’s Democratic Movement (PDM) are fed up. They are clearly disunited, and it can be said that Premier Romeo does not command consensus support within his ranks.
For almost two years, we have watched Premier Romeo undertake the task of taking charge of the affairs of Montserrat. There comes a point however, where leadership has to take responsibility. There comes a point when leadership has to recognize its failings, and its shortcomings, and also recognize when it needs assistance.
Democracy Also Questions Leadership
If I am to draw some parallels, let us look at the currently unfolding situation in the United Kingdom as it regards BREXIT. The UK is in a state of political upheaval. However, what is most interesting is that throughout this political upheaval, one would have expected that it would have been the Conservative Party alone to be undergoing struggles. But, we are seeing also the Labour leadership of Jeremy Corbyn being challenged outright and forthrightly so. Why? Labour Leader Corbyn showed little, by way of decisive leadership in the BREXIT campaign. Even though Corbyn was democratically elected, members from within his own camp have seen his failings in leadership; have questioned his competency in leadership, and have so offered their resignations, and teamed up to call for Corbyn to step aside for more astute leadership at the helm.
I draw that parallel because I wish to come back to Montserrat’s situation. A few weeks ago I wrote in a piece and said that Hon Claude Hogan is disappointing the late Hon John Osborne's legacy in leadership. Disappointing in that Hon Hogan knows that Premier Romeo is not performing. However, as the man with the most parliamentary experience, one would have expected that Hon Hogan would have done the right thing in the interest of Montserrat’s immediate, and long term future and step to the plate and draw together a coalition of the willing, and call for Premier Romeo to step aside.
However, what we are seeing is Hon Hogan sitting back waiting for the democratic process, as he calls it, to be enacted in the next electoral cycle in 2019, to perhaps remove Hon Romeo. But if Hon Hogan is not paying attention, then he should get the tape of the proceedings of the last Legislative Assembly and listen. Listen keenly to Hon David Osborne. Listen keenly to Hon Gregory Willock. Listen keenly to Hon Ingrid Buffonge. Listen keenly to Hon Paul Lewis. And what are these MPs all saying? They are basically expressing their dissatisfaction, and they are fed up with the one-manism style of leadership of Premier Romeo.
One-manism Much Like RTM?
I say one-manism. Premier Romeo operates very much like a one-man government. In my view, Premier Romeo has lost the authority to accuse former Premier Reuben T. Meade as having operated a one-man government.
Premier Romeo may say; “Well I do not intervene in other Ministries.” Wrong. His move on Access in March was a faux pas. That move has exposed Romeo’s political insecurities. That move has also rendered him inept because we have a situation now where hardship has been delivered to the people of Montserrat based on poor decision making by the Premier himself. No ferry to date. So where to now for Montserrat?
Whilst in Opposition, this is the very same Premier that stated that he knows how best to negotiate with the United Kingdom. If you recall, this is the very same Premier that stated that it is through his negotiations why housing came to Look Out. He showed MNI Alive the documents. They are on file. Many of the deliverables that Montserrat enjoyed in terms of development assistance came, according to Premier Romeo, by his intervention and negotiation with DFID. Many believed him. Dare I say, I too believed him.
Two years in, neither surrogates nor supporters can continue to make the excuse that more time is needed. If you know how to negotiate whilst in Opposition, then whilst in power, your negotiation abilities should by now be bearing fruit, more than we have seen.
Instead, we have heard of a renewal of the relationship between Montserrat and the United Kingdom. A renewal of relationship, based on the fact that DFID officials thought former Premier Meade was rude; he didn’t do their bidding; he did not succumb to their bidding. So therefore, here it is that Premier Romeo has stepped forward and reset the button, and has given Montserrat over to the Department for International Development to run the country. Effectively, that is what is happening.
The most we hear in terms of government operations, and what is happening on behalf of the people of Montserrat, is from the Lady Governor. This cannot be good enough. This is not leadership.
Romeo, The Personality, Is Not The Issue
Premier Romeo, I have all belief, is well-meaning.
Many will read what is written here, and engage with churlish retorts; “Oh, you don’t like the Premier.”
That response is the fallacy of our political engagement, where we can’t have truth in our observations, and our discussions on the issues without the need to go personal on everything. We seem to always seek to appease, and say the expected thing so as not to offend anyone.
But this is not about offense. This is not about personality; neither is it about any mode of dislike. I do believe the Premier has venerable intentions. However, as a matter of competence; as a matter of ability in leadership, I also believe that the Premier has shown that he is not capable of executing the functions required to lead Montserrat from the current state where the island is, towards a path of prosperity and sustainability. Premier Romeo is not the man for the job at this point in time in our country’s history. That is not a dislike of Romeo. That is a frank and truthful observation.
Leadership Must be Honest About What It Can Deliver
Again, I draw a parallel with the United Kingdom. One of the individuals who has put himself forward for the leadership of the Conservative Party - the treacherous Michael Gove - numerous times he has stated that he doesn’t see himself as having the capacity to lead. Mind you, this is a man who is brilliant, educated, connected. However, he has stated repeatedly on tape, on the record, that he does not see himself as having the capacity, despite his great study, to run the affairs of the United Kingdom. Therefore, as treacherous as he is, this is a man who was once honest with himself and his conscience.
So therefore, as we look to Montserrat, and we look 2 years in to where the island is; as we hear the cry of people asking; “Where are the jobs? Where is increase of their disposable income?” One man, it was said during the election cycle, has 5 jobs and 5 men cannot get one. Has that changed significantly?
The question to be asked for Montserrat, and for Montserratians, and for the island’s children’s future is; are the people satisfied to sit back and discuss? And talk? And grumble? And murmur? And say nothing? And absorb hardship? Satisfied to see the economy of the island being eroded even further?
Or will the future of Montserrat be dictated by the people, who have elected a government and a leader to lead the affairs of the country in a competent manner, such as the people can be proud of?
There Is No Expectation of Miracles, Just basic Delivery
There is no expectation of total deliverance from all the ills that may have befallen the country, because Montserrat’s ailment is a collection of all the previous governments. But at the same time, the people cannot sit back and be complacent with incompetence in leadership - then grumble and moan and do nothing about it.
We are losing our country, I fear, and the leadership in position at this point in time in our history needs to be a leadership that sets the path for the reclamation of Montserrat. For Montserrat to rise from the ashes, the island needs a leadership of purpose. It needs a leadership of competence - one that will alleviate hardship — not increase hardship. If the people are honest with themselves, then also too they need to be honest about the leadership that is currently on display. Is it the leadership that Montserrat requires at this point in time in her history to take the country forward?
An honest answer is all that is required.